Everyone Needs Negotiation Skills

Peter B. Stark, one of the country’s foremost authorities on negotiating, has been teaching negotiation skills for close to two decades. Stark’s road to success does not follow the standard Ivy League MBA format. In high school, he was a so-so student with a palpable fear of failure and chronic low self-esteem. When he started dating a straight-A student, he began mimicking her study habits. By the time she said goodbye, he was a bona fide straight-A student.

Lacking the confidence to apply to a big-name school, he attended San Diego State University. He never got his MBA because he never completed his thesis. By 1980, Stark and a friend had started a commercial printing company, and he soon realized that every time he bid on a job, he wound up on the losing side.

That’s when he picked up a book on negotiation, learned the basics, and persuaded San Diego State to let him teach a negotiating class. As Stark explains, “If you really want to get good at something, teach it.” Soon after, he founded Peter Barron Stark and Associates, a successful training firm that focuses on negotiation and leadership skills.

Stark and his sister, Jane S. Flaherty, have assembled a book full of tips from their seminars, “The Only Negotiating Guide You’ll Ever Need: 101 Ways To Win Every Time in Any Situation,” to teach how to navigate any potentially sticky situation. Stark argues that those who have the best negotiating skills receive the most generous raises and the best business assignments, as well as the best prices on big-ticket items like cars and homes. You don’t have to be an extrovert or a natural-born manipulator to negotiate well.

Here are a few of Stark’s tips on becoming a more effective negotiator:

1. Don’t narrow your negotiations to one issue If your car salesman won’t give you the price you want, explore the possibility of a different financing rate or a “luxury” option. If you trade concessions back and forth, both sides can feel like winners.

2. Even if you think it’s fair, don’t accept the first offer too quickly One standard negotiation technique is to begin the process by asking for more than you’re willing to accept. Your counterpart will think that he or she could have gotten a better deal if you accept the first deal offered. This “cautious” approach gives you valuable wiggle room.

3. Think about what your counterpart needs As Dale Carnegie taught, it pays to look at life from another person’s point of view. When you ask for a raise, take into consideration your boss’ budget concerns. There are great benefits to be gained by factoring in the constraint others face and remembering that it’s not always about you, you, you.

4. Timing Blithely asking for a raise when your company’s stock price has plummeted or choosing to discuss your son’s report card with him just after his girlfriend has broken his heart are two examples of needing to know the importance of being time-sensitive.

5. Ask questions

Finding out what’s on the other person’s mind is an invaluable aid when it comes to getting what you want. The more information you have, the better idea you have of what your parameters are and, consequently, the more powerful your presentation will be. It’s easy to ask questions and it’s a painless way of getting someone else to tell you where they are emotionally.

No matter what kind of personality you have, you can learn how to be more successful when it comes to negotiating. Whether you want to find a way to help your kids be more responsible with their chores or have your secretary be more pleasant with clients, Stark points out that there’s an almost endless variety of ways to get what you want. This little book helps make the process manageable instead of nightmarish.

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